Archive for March, 2011


I mentioned this briefly in my 4 Years Since Setting Off post is my packing habits. Of which I kind of have none. I can’t relate to people that actually have to limit what they take. I have a weird fasination with people’s packing posts, mainly since I can’t relate to them at all. How is this a big deal in anyway?

My only hard and fast rule when it comes to packing is that if you can carry it all in one trip, you are fine. If you need a cart to load your bags on, you’ve packed too much. If you need a stranger or even anyone to “watch your stuff” while you pee, you’ve packed too much. (This happened to me at the Melbourne bus station. A stranger asked me to watch their stuff and they took forever and my bus came. I left it. What else could I do? I would never ask anyone I didn’t know to do that!) If you need help lifting a bag anywhere, you’ve packed too much. Of course, with new airline rules, this has made people way better packers, which I think is the best thing about these new rules. Yes, you can live with less stuff, it’s fine. Just because you have the space doesn’t mean you should bring it! (Which is how people were with the “old rules”).

Another thing that makes me a good packer is I am not your typically girly girl. I don’t need to bring three outfits because I am not sure what I am going to feel like wearing 4 days from now. Pending the situation and weather, I can tell you right now what I’ll want to be wearing a year from now. Exactly what I am wearing now as I type this post. Jeans (or PJ bottoms, ideally, since I am at home and it’s like 7pm), slippers, whatever tshirt I have lying around and whatever sweatshirt that isn’t in the wash. And since I don’t have to dress up for travel, I could wear the same thing (though I am a stickler for CLEAN clothes) every single day. Which is why when I am just heading off for a weekend, or even a week or two vacation, I just pack the same thing for the amount of days I’ll be gone and be done with it. It also helps that I absoultly hate shopping and my closet and drawer are bare compared to the normal girls closet. Esentially I bring everything I own, if I am leaving for more then 2 weeks, so picking and choosing certain things isn’t even a big issue.

(How much do I hate shopping? One of my New Years resolutions to myself this year was to buy 1 (ONE!) item of clothing a month for 12 months. When my sister was in town at the start of February, we went shopping and I bought 4 things. My favorite part? Knowing I wasn’t going to have to force myself to do this again until MAY!!!)

But for my big trip, I had to put slightly more thought into it. I walked around in my everyday life for two weeks prior with a pen and paper in hand, just in case I remembered something else to pack. I didn’t reread my list every time, for fear when I would get to the end, I would have forgotten what I wanted to add so I ended up with a lot of doubles, which was fine. Better then forgetting something! I also starred next to certain items that were not must haves and only pack these items if there was space. I knew which bags I wanted to take, so the morning I was leaving (my plane didn’t leave until 9pm, so I had all day to pack, plus since I have such a small amount of stuff, I was using most of everything up till and including the day I left, so I actually couldn’t pack until that day), I did my laundry, dragged my bags out (1 large duffle, 1 small duffle and 1 backpack) and started throwing things in. Okay, rolling and bagging up most of it. I packed all my must haves and then started throwing in my bonus items such as my robe (what the hell?!) and my down blanket (double what the hell?!?!?). And oddly enough, EVERYTHING FIT!!!! I was in shock by this. I swore that something was missing, that I was going to get to New Zealand and be missing something vitial (well, not so vital that I couldn’t buy it, but still).

And surprise! I forgot nothing! I used everything I brought, threw some stuff away that fell apart, bought new stuff and tossed most of it before I even came home. I tossed my blanket before I came home. I tossed some jeans that were falling apart. I gave away all my books (kept my guide books) and shampoo and soaps. I had so much space in my suitcase when I was coming home, that I filled about 3/4 of my small duffle back full of TimTams and Lamingtons. I came home with about 40 packages of TimTams.

What helps is a big item that I don’t travel with. I don’t bring a computer and all it’s various attachment devices that I can’t afford to loose. All I bought was a camera, jump drive and ipod and all the wires involved with that and even that annoyed me enough! I bought my phone in New Zealand and sold it in Australia so that was a non-issue. I also don’t bring shampoo or conditionar when I travel and just buy it when I arrive. I love browsing shelves at local pharmacies and trying out the local brands, just makes you get out there and join the locals faster. You never know what you are going to discover with local brands! Seriously, take them out of your starting luggage and see how much weight you loose. I understand this is hard for the constantly moving travelers, but it helps when you are starting out.

Moral: I still make lists like the one I did for my big trip, even when I am going on short ones, but I don’t carry my lists around as long, maybe for a day or so. For me, my reccomendation would be that lists are key. I might not start packing until the day I leave, but I have been “mentally” packing for a week. Also, don’t forget, it’s just stuff. Everything is replaceable. My only must haves are: Passport, credit card and debit card. Everything else, just buy when you arrive. And hell, even those are replaceable, just a pain in the ass to deal with. (My sister and my dream is to one day, just get on a plane with our purses and buy everything when we arrive. One day!!)

(Sorry, I have no pictures of my bags or what I pack.)

Used: 2008

My biggest reason to stop in the larger West Coast town of Greymouth was to go to Punakaiki also known as the Pancake Rocks. Like the Moeraki boulders, it didn’t look like it would take too much time, but hey, you never know. They are also a natural occurance and look like something I had never seen before. They are only a quick 30 minute ride outside of town, but I walked the whole path, not wanting to be rushed. The place was awesome! I highly recoomend everyone stopping there (and all the backpacker buses do). High tide is supposed to be “better” because when the waves come in, they splash up really high and act like a geyser. I was there during low tide and it was great too. Just so unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand

Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand - Close Up

Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand

I ate lunch there at the over priced cafe before taking my time to return to town and stopping on the side of the road at some random beaches to enjoy the quite and read my book.

Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand

Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand

Greymouth as a town is kind of a bust. It’s the largest town on the West Coast of New Zealand and kind of reminds me of Invercargill where most of the population is just working class and there isn’t much to see in town. It’s sort of the jade capital of New Zealand and there are jewlery stores on every corner. If you want to get something jade, this is probably the place to do it. Because of it’s size, it’s a good place to crash for the night, but not really worth staying more then traveling through.

I stayed at Duke’s Backpackers which was really interesting. When I stayed, it was own by Isrealies and I was there over Hanukkah, so they lite the candles and sang songs every night I was there, which I hadn’t expirenced in a while. The kitchen and eating area was huge, they had cheap single rooms with closet, chair, sink and wardrobe. The place was very quiet. I don’t remember the parking situation, I know there was a lot, but I don’t remember if I was there over a weekend, so it may have been free and there was no issue.

Moral: I could have done Greymouth and the area in an afternoon instead of the full day I allotted myself. But the weather was great and I spent the rest of my time reading on the beach, so no complaints here. If you drive the West Coast, you gotta stop at Punakaiki. You can see it in like 30 minutes, if you rush and it’s so awesome!

Punakaiki, West Coast, New Zealand

I had such medium hopes for this book! An American women is living in Italy and she adopts a dog! LOVE IT! Yeah, it ends up that the dog isn’t in the story all that much. It’s mainly about her relationship with some Italian Dude and his crazy family. They are in a small town in the south of Italy. Craziness ensues. The reason she takes the dog in is because for the most part in that area, dogs are left to fend for themselves and aren’t given the same love they are in America and she is not used to that. So she “saves” Marcus. The book ends with her coming back to America, because she breaks up with the dude and her job is over and she isn’t sure how the dog will react to NYC, so she wants to leave the dog with a family and pay for it’s upkeep, but then something happens at the last minute and she takes the dog with her. This book was more about her personal life then her life with the dog, so that was a bit disappointing. Meh

Used: 2008

Route 1: Takaka to Piction

After a couple of days in lovely Takaka it was finally time to head to the North Island. It is approximatly a 3 hour drive from Takaka to Piction, but I knew we wanted to make some stops along the way, so even though we had a mid-afternoon sailing, we got started early, as always. Our first stop was in Nelson. My sister’s boyfriend shares the same name, so I knew she wanted to stop there and see if they had any Nel-related merchandise. It was actrually a really cute town and we stopped and walked around the centre and got some lunch. It looked like a cute, beautiful, hippie town and I wish we could have stopped longer, but like everything in New Zealand, I could spend a month everywhere, just soaking up the atmosphere of every nook and cranny of every cute town. But it was time to move on.

I guess I made a wrong turn (you are never really lost in New Zealand as there are few roads there to start with and you’ll always end up where you need to be, it just might take a little longer) and instead of cutting through to drive along Queen Charlotte Sound, we drove inland through Blenheim where we came across the biggest collection of fast food chains that we had seen in a week. We drove through a bit of wine country, which is beautiful in it’s own right. But I do slightly regret that we missed the ocean road, but it just looked like a tiny little road! I had been in New Zealand long enough, why hadn’t I learned my lesson that the smallest things could take you to some magical places! Damn, I sound cheesy.

Anyway, we still made it to the sailing with time to spare even though we drove about 30 minutes out of the way. There isn’t much to see in Picton, most people just use it as a jumping off point for walks and hikes around Queen Charlotte Sound. Unfortunatly, we were on a tight schedule, so I have yet to really expirence the area. Next time!

Town of Picton as see from the ferry

Typical traffic jam in New Zealand. Getting on the ferry in Picton.

Route 2: Piction to Graymounth

The following year, I was back in the area. I spent one night in Picton at Tombstone Backpackers. The place was super clean and the owners were awesome as they picked me up right from the ferry terminal, even though it was fairly late. But to service a town like Picton where your life blood is the ferry, especially for backpackers with no car, not providing this service is unheard of, so I knew this wasn’t even never not an option. Plus, it’s not like the ferries come 24/7 or there even needs to be pick up or drop off every day for every sailing as lots of backpackers do have their own car or are on bus tours like Stray, Kiwi Expirence, etc. Anyway, my only complaint about this place is that since I was only staying one night and for less then 12 hours, I booked a dorm room, specificing a female only room and I was just thrown in with both guys and girls. The room was also pretty small and not good for those wanting to repack their backs before their hikes, so jumping over everyone kind of sucked. Storage space was good and lots of hooks and great full bathrooms, which I always love. And very clean. And for one night, whatever. But this is exactly why I rarely stay in dorms for more then a night or two. The kitchen was lovely as was the free breakkie and even though I arrived late, I wasn’t tired yet from my day so I sat in the den and read for a few hours. And a great book selection too!!

The next day, bright and early, I was back in town to pick up a car at Backpacker Car rentals to get my car for the next 4 days. It was only about a 4 hour drive, but I knew I was going to make some stops along the way. The first part of the drive from Renwick to Saint Arnaud was so lovely. Driving at 100km/hr down the straights, flatest highway, during the week between Christmas and New Years and still not seeing a soul for on either side of the road for at least 6km, I think was the record. Mountains on one side, flat grassland on the other. So fantastic. I stopped in Murchinson for lunch before stopping at the Buller Gorge to walk on New Zealand’s longest swing bridge and watch all the crazy people swing over it. The place was a bit of a bust. I don’t know, maybe I was just expecting more when it seemed like someone just set up a booth on the side of the road and charges people for something they should be able to do for free, such as walk over a bridge and walk on some badly labeled walking paths. DOC does a better job in New Zealand’s free parks. Whatevs, $4 or whatever to take a nice break in my drive. And a few hours later, I was in Graymouth.

Buller Gorge

Swing Bridge at Buller Gorge, New Zealand

Buller Gorge from below to give you an idea on how high it is.

Trail around Buller Gorge

Moral: If you are ever stuck on a driving trip and have lots of time, New Zealand is a great place to be. Most towns are very small and not really worth a stop, though most will create something to get people to stop, you just have to decide if what they are trying to sell you is worth your time and money. The sceney is the best reason to be stuck here. It’s a different scene around every turn and you never know what is going to come next. And also, if you make a wrong turn, no worries, most of the time it works out with out having to backtrack. It’s very hard to get lost in New Zealand and if you can read a map with any ease, skip on the GPS and look out the window instead!

If you live in the United States, you are most likely familer with Groupons. These coupon deals are catagorized by town and city (and even neighborhood in larger cities, such as Los Angeles) and the deal a day varies from health and beauty services, to new and classic restaurants in town to even local activites that you might not know about or even frequent yourself. Lots of countries seem to have caught on and GrabOne is the most popular New Zealand version of this.

Why am I mentioning this in a travel blog? I subscribe to the Los Angeles one, of course, but I also subscribe to the New Zealand one out of interest, just to see what they post. And since New Zealand is such a tourist based economy, GrabOne posts TONS of deals on tourist related activies, to boast their economy as well as get New Zealanders out there and doing stuff they might not normally do. I get so jealous and sad when I see the email in my box, as there is always something I want to do nearly every single day! If you are traveling to New Zealand anytime soon, I highly reccomend subscribing to the site as the deals are awesome! And who knows, you may discover something you didn’t think of doing before.

Because of this, I now subscribe to all cities I am about to visit. I am currently subscribing to the Chicago and Hawaii ones as well as I am traveling to these places later this year. I haven’t bought anything yet, but you never know:-).

Which sites in other countriesdso you subscribe to? Have you ever bought anything in your home town that you would have never done without a Groupon?

Moral: I love this website! I have gotten deals on haircuts, which are good if you know you are going to be in a certain town at a certain time as well as new restuarants that I had been wanting to try and this website gave me a push in the right direction. This website is also a good way to get out and do touristy thing in your own town you might have not done otherwise, sort of like the New Zealand version.

The author of this book was kind of a douche. So what do I do? Pick up more of his stuff! Looking forward to it (sort of). But I liked the topic a lot. Guy and his gal are recent college grads and guy has no idea what to do, so he follows his gal to the end of the world where she gets a job for a year or two on an atoll in the Pacific. One thing I liked about this book, is the authors total honesty. He has dreams of what it will be like and it so doesn’t live up to them. Another thing I liked, is that this book took place in the mid-90’s so cell phones and computers aren’t everywhere yet, so it seems compared to other books I have read on this topic, while it’s a world of difference in the middle of nowhere, it’s not as extreme as it probably is today, with technology and all. Sounds like my kind of place! NOT! After this book I never have dreams of going to a deserted island like these. The lack of food and water and just hothothot all day and no electricity, sounds miserable. The best part? Losing tons of weight because there is nothing to eat! Otherwise, forget it. The Guy had nothing to do on the island, he thought he would write his novel. Instead, this book came out of it. So, not half bad. And since he had nothing to do, every chapter was like a little story set around a different aspect of life. I like that format a lot. Which is why I picked up more of his stuff. We’ll see how it goes.

New Zealand – Jobs

Used: 2007/2008

One thing I oddly haven’t written about are the jobs I had while in New Zealand. Everyone starts their working holiday with something in mind, weather it’s what city they are working in or what kind of job they are going to get and it rarely works out as planned. In my head, if I was going to look for office work, it was going to be in Wellington as that seemed like a central part of the county and a beautiful city or I would buy a car and drive around the country, working from hostel to hostel, just discovering the whole country. Of course, things never work out at planned.

I haven’t talked much about my jobs since I had such a good time working and had such awesome jobs, I want to keep something to myself. But since it’s such a big part on why I came to New Zealand and a good reason why people should come and there isn’t that much info out there for Americans, I’ll write vaguely about my experience.

I’ll call them Job A, Job B and Job C.

After hanging out in Auckland for a week and getting settled and looking for work and a weekend trip up to Northland, I came back to Auckland on a Monday and on Tuesday resumed the job search. I was going to give myself another week or two before I would head down to Wellington and try my luck down south. In doing my daily search through jobs on which is one of New Zealand’s biggest job websites, I found the posting for Job A. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the post. Temp work, in television (which is something I wanted to get into when I returned to the US) and dealing with international contacts. Who better, then someone who was international? The posting was via Madison Recruitment whose paperwork I had seen another traveller in ACB carrying the previous week, so I knew they worked well with international clients. I applied immediatly and was called later that day to come in and take all the temp tests the next day. Wednesday, I went in and took all the tests and met with a consultant. She said that she thinks the job I applied for had been filled, but to keep them posted about my availbilty and they would keep me posted about potential jobs. This was early 2007, the job market in Auckland was bumping. They said they would probably place my quickly. Two days later, early Friday morning, I got a call from another consultant saying that the job I applied to was still available and they wanted to meet me later that day and was I still available. Absoultely! I went in, met with the department, had a really good feeling about it and later that day, got a call from Madison, saying they loved me (too!) and I got the job and I would start Monday! I was estatic! I even invested some of my mobile minutes to call my sister and tell her the news over the phone, instead of waiting till the weekend and call via a payphone and calling card. I was so happy!

The job was great and lasted until August, 2007. During my time at Job A, I met loads of people in other departments and there was another assistant going on maternity leave in October and her boss really wanted to hire me but there were two issues. One, they had to post the job so everyone could apply and two, the job would last longer then my current work permit allowed, so I would have to apply for a general work permit to cover the last 4 months of my time for Job C. I did and was approved in three weeks (more later).

I had a few weeks in between each job, but since Job C wasn’t a slam dunk (I still have to reinterview and pending that, get my work permit approved) Madison knew Job A was ending and they called me on my last day of work and see if I wanted to interview across the street at Job B for another temp job. I wasn’t dressed for it (it was Friday, so I was in jeans) but she said I could go like that, so off I went. The interview went well. I could tell they liked me as I interview pretty good and since this was a temp job for 4 weeks, this wasn’t a lifetime commitment anyway. They pretty much offered me the job on the spot and I would start Monday. How easy-peasy is that? Unfortunately, this job ended up kind of sucking. Lots of running around, I always seemed out of the loop as everyone was on their cell phones all day and I didn’t have a company phone. My computer was a turd. I never knew what was good enough for my boss. Other people on my floor and various other people in the company liked me but the two people I worked with the most, I just never felt like part of the team and they made no effort to include me in a lot of stuff. I worked my 4 weeks, they offered me another week and on the Wednesday of my 5th week, Madison called me to tell me that Job B was not asking me back for a 6th week (even though I still had two weeks until Job C would start). I was annoyed on how it went down, on Madison telling me I was essentially “fired” and not Job B and my boss pretty much didn’t even say goodbye when I left on Friday. But since the job annoyed me anyway, I got over it pretty quickly.

During those two weeks, I took my physical, got a new apartment, went to Wellington, got my immigration papers from Job C and submitted them for my permit.

Job C started in October and lasted 9 months. It was within the same company as Job A, so I already knew everyone which was awesome. I totally loved it. At this point in my life, it was the best company and jobs I had ever worked for. Job C was definatly something I would never do in the US, but I am so glad I did it while I was overseas, which is what a job while on a Working Holiday Visa should be. About half way in, I was asked if I wanted to stay on and do another assistant job, this one would be full time permanent when Job C was over, but I declined. I was ready to move on. I loved New Zealand and for the most part, the company, but as things happen when you work in a place for over a year, cracks were starting to appear and I was already getting exciting about what Australia would being.

Moral: I was in New Zealand for a total of 16 months on various work permits and working in Auckland for most of them. I had a fantastic time at some awesome jobs but it was time to move on. My memories are some of the best of my life and even now, 4 years later, I still look back fondly on them. I still think about the company I worked for in Jobs A/C and keep an eye on their job postings, just to see what is going on. One of the best times of my life.

Used: 2007/2008

When putting together this trip, we all knew it was going to be rushed and a lot of stuff was going to be jammed into a small amount of time. Knowing my sister’s hate for sitting in a car for hours on end, I tried to keep her aware of what was going on and see what she wanted to do. She had a friend staying in the town of Karamea, but we had to skip it as it was over an hour each way and not one the way to anywhere. But when she suggested the area of Golden Bay, which is near Abel Tasman, I worked hard to make it happen.

I found a place to stay in the town of Takaka called Anatoki Lodge and it ended up being one of our favorite places on the trip. We arrived into town kind of late on New Years Eve and when I buzzed the front reception door, the owner came in from across the street where she was having a New Years dinner at The Brigand. I appologized for being late, but hey, it’s New Zealand, everything is pretty casual. After checking in and out the place (awesome! it has an indoor pool!) we treked across the street for dinner. The place was packed, but the wait wasn’t long at all and we quickly got a table for dinner. Another one of our best dinners! The place was awesome. We walked back to the hotel where my parents were in for the night and my sister and I went out to party it up for New Years Eve, New Zealand-style! I wanted to go back to The Brigand and continue drinking there, but my sister wanted to check out other places. We found a total dive bar down the street and had a drink there before the place got kind of shady, so we walked back to The Brigand. That ended up being a good choice. We started drinking there and chatting it up with both locals and the owner. I told him where I worked and we talked tv which turned into two free drinks for both my sister and I! I have no idea what time we finally made it home, but it was a really really fun night, one of my best New Years in memories and we were in the tiniest of towns. So awesome, so classic New Zealand.

The next day, we did nothing, which I had budgeted for. I was so hung over and since I was the only one who could drive, everyone had to wait for me to wake up to do anything. Well, they could wonder around town, which is what they did. I told my sister how to use my EFTPOS card so they could buy food, which was good. I finally got up and we finally made it out for our slowest day of the trip. We went on a short hike to Te Waikoropupu Springs which has the largest supply of fresh water springs in the southern hempishere. Just a nice quiet walk. We drove out as far as we could to Farewell Spit and then back to Collingwood for dinner where we ate at the Courthouse Cafe, one of our favorite meals. It wasn’t too cheap and we just ordered coffees and nearly everything on their menu as it was really small, but just mainly enjoyed the quiet and deliciousness of the food and being outside. A lovely little cafe.

My first animal crossing in New Zealand

Te Waikoropupu Springs

Farewell Spit, end of the line!

The next day was back to lots of driving. We drove over Takaka Hill to Kaiterteri to do random day trips in Abel Tasman park. Kayaking trips are really popular so the day before I called a company and signed my sister and I up for one trip, which unfortunately I can’t remember which one. But there are so many and I am sure they are all fine. I don’t remember ours being totally awesome or totally horrible, it was just fine. I do remember that our guide was from Ireland which I was kind of meh on. It seemed like a lot of the guides on the South Island were from overseas and the guides on the North Island were from New Zealand. I try to gravitate towards the locals as I always have a good time with them. But other then that, the place was just packed. It’s a huge tourist site and one of the busiest we came across in New Zealand. It was like a clusterfuck of tours all day long. I left my EFTPOS card with my parents so they could book and pay for whatever water taxi they wanted for the day and we just met up at the end of the day. I got horribly burned here, which prompted us to buy “awesome hat” when we got to Wellington a few days later. I remember getting back to the beach where I parked the car and the beach just being swamped with more people then I had seen since I left Auckland a week before.

In Abel Tasman, getting ready to go!

Abel Tasman Coast

Beach at Abel Tasman

Me and Sister, done with Abel Tasman for the day, taking the boat back to the beach.

Then after a another long and windy trip back to Takaka, we had dinner at the “other” restaurant in town, Dangerous Kitchen. A bit more organic for my taste, but still good. I remember I finally did a load of laundry at this place. The town is so tiny, that I threw in a wash, placed my order, ran back to the hotel to throw everything in the dryer, come back and eat, run back to the hotel to take it out and then come back for conversation without missing a beat. I love the ability to just run everywhere and not worry about driving. This is the type of town that I totally wish I had grown up in (sort of). This would be the longest we would spend in one place on this trip and we were finally moving on, back to a big city the next day.

Moral: Takaka, while a very small town, the timing was perfect for our time here. A perfect New Zealand town to hang out in off and on for a few days. You can walk to all the services you will need if your driver can’t move, eat good food and still do touristy things at the same time. And the weather, so lovely! Not really on the way to or from anywhere, but a nice alternative to larger places that serve Abel Tasman such as Motueka. It’s not so out of the way to be an inconvenience.

I actually discovered this title when I got an invite to a free movie preview a few months back. The movie is starring George Clooney (helllo!), takes place in Hawaii (YUM!) and is director by Alexander Payne (YES!). Those three factors? Sign me up! Unfortunately, I did not get into the screening, but in doing some light research, found out that the movie is based on a book, so I immediately requested the book, so I could be prepared to see the movie in a few months. I love doing book/movie comparisons.

The book was decent. Guy’s wife gets into an accident and he has to make the decision to take her off life support, which dealing with his two daughters at the same time and selling off his family land. In the process, he finds out that his wife has had an affair and he goes to find the man, so he can say goodbye to her as well. The older daughter is very much like her mother and they did not get along. The younger daughter is loud and tells it like it is, but not in a too annoying way (we’ll see how this translates on screen). During this time Guy’s father has died and all his cousins and family want him to sell the land, so they’ll make some money. The question is who to sell it too. The highest bidder (a “mainlander”) or someone local who will do “good” with it.

I could just picture the scenery for this movie already, BEAUTIFUL!!! I am loving it already. I may have to actually pay full price and see a movie this year. Otherwise the book was okay. Simple, but interesting enough. The local made it different then what would have been a typical, blah, whatever story.

Used: 2007/2008

There are two ferry’s that service the route between Wellington and Picton in New Zealand. As with most things in New Zealand, there are only two options (other then various flying services) and they are very close in terms of service and price, with one always undercutting the other.

The bigger and more expensive, but my no means better ferry is Interislander. They run slightly more services daily and have an on-board small movie theatre, but if you are sailing on the nice day, I don’t see why you would want to be inside when you can be outside enjoying the view through Queen Charlotte Sound on the South Island. The food services on this boat, people think are better, but they didn’t seem too special to me. I took this boat when I was doing NZ with my family, so we had a car to drive on the boat in Picton. One thing I didn’t like about the Interislander is that when I printed out my confirmation email, there was no date or time on it. I was worried that I reserved our sailing for the correct day, because we were travelling during peak travel season and Blue Bridge had already sold out our sailing. But I did get a lovely text message the morning of our (thankfully correct) sailing day, telling us that everything looked like it was going to be ontime, so I breathed a sigh of relief that I booked the correct day. We did a mid-day sailing and spent some time on deck for the first part of the cruise as the day was nice, but once we got out of the Sound into the straight, it got a lot chillier and we retreated inside to the huge lounge, where in typical NZ fashion, my parents started chatting with the people next to us about their travel plans in the country. Too funny, we seriously are normally not very chatty people with strangers (it’s our New Yorkness, for sure) but New Zealand just brings it out even in the most closed up people.

Queen Charlotte Sound, Cook Straight, New Zealand

Windy day on the ferry in Cook Straight, New Zealand

A downside for me regarding Interisland ferry is their drop off point in Wellington. Thankfully for this trip we had a car, but for those who don’t, the drop off point is about 2km south of the train station. But it looks like there are shuttles to various points in town now, for a small fee. Kind of a pain in the ass!

I actually liked Blue Bridge better. Apparently the ships are slightly older, but I barely noticed. I took it from Wellington to Picton and it was wicked easier to walk on in Wellington as the ship docks right across the street from the train station. I liked the check in procedures because they make it seem like you are checking in for a flight and taking your bag and everything. But unlike flights, you can leave and walk around before returning for the cruise. I am sure it was the day I took the ferry, but I felt the Blue Bridge was a lot smoother then Interislander, but I won’t blame the ships, that is more a comment on the days I took the ride.

Sunset on the Straight, New Zealand

Cook Straight, New Zealand

When I got to the other end in Picton, I had made a reservation at Tombstone Backpackers and requested a pick up at the ferry terminal. I love New Zealand for its smallness and all I had to do was email them and tell them which ferry and time I was arriving and knew it would all work out. And of course, it did! They were waiting for me as soon as I grabbed my luaggage and exited the terminal. How you pick up your luggage is kind of funny. It’s sort of a reverse airplane way, at least in Picton it is. They lay all the luggage out in rows inside the terminal and once they are done, passangers are allowed in to walk around and grab their bags. Too funny!

Moral: As with everything in New Zealand, there are two options for one popular tourist need. Neither is better or worse, so unless Interislander fits your needs more, as they do have more sailings, I would check with Blue Bridge first to see if they are available. Otherwise, Interislander is fine.